2

Essex Dogs by Dan Jones describes in passing English or Welsh archers 1 using thumb rings during the hundred year's war.

I can find (unreliable) references to Roman thumb rings, and certainly the Romans encountered Asiatic archers, so it is not implausible. And Western European archers would have encountered Huns (plus the crusades). It is quite plausible.

But I've found no record of Asiatic/thumb draw in any of my sources on English Archery. I'm reluctant to conclude that absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

Is there a fundamental reason why Western/English archers preferred the Mediterranean draw?


1 I listened to it in an audio book which makes it very difficult to go back and check. I think the reference is to the English archer, but even the Welsh archers are fighting (most of the time) in support of the English army. It is also possible that I misunderstood a reference to an ornamental ring as a reference to an archer's thumb ring.

2
  • 3
    Another 'lack of evidence' entry would be the lack of any thumb rings on the Mary Rose. If thumb rings were in use you would expect to find them amongst the 137 intact bows and 3500 arrows found on this wreck.
    – justCal
    Dec 16, 2023 at 23:25
  • Excellent point!!
    – MCW
    Dec 16, 2023 at 23:39

1 Answer 1

2

Is there a fundamental reason why Western/English archers preferred the Mediterranean draw?

I don't know or can't find reliable sources, but as an archer for decades, I can see a good and practical reason why they wouldn't prefer the Mongolian draw (or the Asian thumb draw) because it is far less easy to learn, and mostly intended for use by mounted archers (for that, it has a different draw length1, and the arrow is placed differently):

Having the ability to better hold the arrow in place is ideal for mounted archers who have to contend with the vibrations and movements of their mounts. Archery Thumb Rings: Eastern Draw

As early western armies mainly used peasants/poor as archers, bowmen fought on foot. They needed little training as they already were using bows to hunt, and often were required to be trained on archery (with a Mediterranean draw they knew/were taught with). Of course, armies fought foreigners, and probably learnt their opponent's methods/strategies, as well as travelers who brought back hunting/fighting technique, but it must have been marginal amongst archers.

1. Archers using the Mongolian draw are placing their draw hand near their front shoulder, cheek, ear, or past their face. It usually extends the draw.

4
  • English longbowmen typically weren't mounted.
    – Spencer
    Dec 16, 2023 at 21:08
  • 1
    mounted archers probably initiated and developped in middle-east/Asia before spreading in other parts of the world, but european archers were footed.
    – OldPadawan
    Dec 16, 2023 at 21:15
  • 1
    I'm not sure that much of the last paragraph actually applies to the English/Welsh archers of the Hundred Years War period. While they fought the major battles on foot, there were mounted archers used in the chevauchées against the French. Effective use of the longbow required regular practice and it wasn't easy to just pick up and use one (which is why inferior firearms replaced the bows - the firearms were easier to master). In this period, hunting was the domain of the uppermost classes. The land, and the animals in it, was the property of the king. Poaching could get you hanged. Dec 17, 2023 at 20:09
  • I'd be quite surprised if the mounted archers in chevauchées used longbows while mounted. I could envision them dismounting to shoot, or shooting a smaller hunting bow. (My understanding is that nobles hunted with shorter handbows commonly, but the bow and the technique were distinct from longbow). Both the length of the longbow, and the posture used for the longbow would make mounted archery quite difficult. I'd be very happy to learn differently.
    – MCW
    Dec 31, 2023 at 13:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.